I find this to be an excellent article on what the New Warrior Training Adventure looks like from a female perspective.
One Man at a Time
by Barbara Marlowe and Jeffrey Goldwasser
What woman hasn’t wished that men would just go off somewhere and fix themselves? Take care of their own business and learn how to feel? Become better husbands, fathers, brothers or lovers? Grow up and at long last, nurture that hurt little boy inside?
What would it be like to love such a man? To watch him grow and change and define new ways of being a man? To watch him become fierce and strong, loving and open? What challenges would women face if men really changed?
The Mankind Project (MKP) and New Warrior Training Adventure is an international men’s networking group that offers men a unique opportunity to focus on deep self-examination with integrity, accountability and connection to feeling. The mission of the Mankind Project is to change the world one man at a time.
We asked New Warriors in the Asheville area and the women who love them to speak about the challenges and rewards of MKP. For the men: What led you to men’s work? Are you different as a man because of the work? How did changing as a man affect your relationships? For the women: What feelings have you had about MKP? What changes have you observed in your loved one? Have their changes as men challenged your notion of how to be a woman?
The Mankind Project and New Warrior Training Adventure started in Milwaukee in the mid-eighties and grew directly out of the feminist movement. Jeffrey Goldwasser initiated the Asheville group in 1999. Having been active in a strong New Warrior community in New England for six years, Jeffrey felt a void when he moved to Asheville and found no MKP. It was after his brother died and he felt depleted and needing men that Jeffrey decided to reach out. He found three other New Warriors and together they started an Asheville MKP. The group has since grown into a vibrant and active community with over 30 men whose age ranges from the late twenties to early seventies.
Participation in MKP begins with the New Warrior Training Adventure, a weekend for men that draws upon Joseph Campbell’s cross cultural research regarding initiation rights of men in indigenous cultures. Using the stages of separation, descent, ordeal and welcoming back into a community, the New Warrior training focuses on deep self examination, and asks the questions: What is it to be a man in today’s world? What is your mission in life? Do you live a life of integrity and accountability? Does your life work?
Veterans of war have eloquently described the powerful bonds that form between men as they fight together against a common enemy. However, bonding experiences that occur during such destruction are at the same time wounding and can cause “a man’s heart to close as soon as it opens.” By contrast, Steve - an Asheville Warrior of seven-years, states, “something different happens when a man’s heart is cracked open in a container like New Warriors Training that is just beautiful”. Claire remembers seeing her husband right after he completed the New Warrior’s weekend: “ The minute I saw him, I knew how good it was for him. He looked like he was in love with himself.” This common initiation experience founded both in challenge and healing helps men to form a bond that most often leads to continued growth and opening. The initiation is what attracts many men to MKP.
After a man completes the weekend he is welcomed back to the MKP community and invited to participate in an on-going men’s circle called an Integration Group. It is here that men can continue their inner work, be supported, support others and keep their hearts open. The MKP has initiated more than 27,000 men. What started out as a weekend in Milwaukee is now an international organization with centers in the U.S.,
Canada, London, Australia, South Africa and Germany.
Why New Warrior
There are common themes as to why each man who is now an Asheville New Warrior sought out “men’s work”: lack of close male friends, the opportunity to find new models of being a man and the desire to find a place where “fierceness is welcomed”. Men often feel isolated, knowing that their lives aren’t working and not knowing where to turn. For some men, MKP is the first self-help they have ever sought out other than a program like AA. For others, MKP was the next step in an ongoing process of personal and spiritual growth. Still others approached the work with a political consciousness as part of a broader world-centric healing.
The commitment to heal with other men is at the core of MKP’s strength and a large part of its draw. Not having to explain themselves and not having to censor strong displays of emotion are important aspects of a male-only healing space. Yet for men with abusive fathers, initially learning to be with men as equals is challenging. “I was scared to death of men,” says Jim, a New Warrior of eight years. Without exception, the New Warriors we spoke to highly value their strong and intimate connections with men. Christopher, a New Warrior of eight years, sums it up by saying that he “used to, in a time of stress or depression, reach out predominately to women. Now I reach out to men.”
While women may wish for men to go off and fix themselves, the reality may also be threatening. Initial concerns many women held in common centered on what their spouses would say about them in group meetings, the confidentiality of that information, and what the other men would think of them. In reality, all the women we spoke with agreed that the men of MKP have only treated them with the “utmost respect”. “The men’s group is pretty cool,” sums up one woman.
MKP emphasizes ‘shadow work’, a process that recognizes the parts of one’s self that are repressed or denied. New Warriors are encouraged to look deeper and to explore their truth without blame, judgment or shame. At the same time, each man is held accountable for his judgments and projections by a loving band of brothers, each having committed himself to becoming whole. “New Warriors is a path of commitment to change, serious but wonderful.”
Being responsible to knowing one’s truth and communicating that responsibly is a cornerstone of the principles of MKP. Learning to express anger cleanly and directly, becoming comfortable with setting boundaries and saying no when you mean no are important lessons. In weekly Integration groups, men learn to recognize behaviors that are controlling and critical, encouraging not the suppression of these parts but rather their integration so men are free to make choices and to not act out in hurtful ways. David W., a New Warrior of almost three years, is clear now: “it’s not the other person's responsibility if I’m angry.”
Calm strength. Tender masculinity. “Owning my balls”. Responsible fierceness. New Warrior. MKP helps each man to take responsibility for their personal power and become the man he was meant to be had he not been wounded or indoctrinated by family and society. “MKP enabled me to step into my power and to appreciate that vulnerability is part of power.” “MKP has enabled me to show up more as a man and integrate traditional male energies that I had previously rebelled against as destructive.”
The proof is in the pudding and there was remarkable consistency in the women’s observations of the men’s stories. Everyone we interviewed said they had witnessed the men they love open up emotionally and come from the heart more instead of the head. Accountability and integrity? New Warriors appear to walk their talk. Jillian witnesses her husband becoming more honest with himself. Tirell sees her husband become more able to speak his truth vs. people pleasing. Claire continues to see her husband grow and become more balanced with an open heart and integrity.
Everyone, men and women alike, agree that becoming a New Warrior changes how men relate to themselves and others both at home and in the world. Several men attribute MKP to helping them to be ready for and to attract a new partner. The men already in relationships—and their partners—agreed that while sometimes the changes have been challenging, they also have served to ultimately strengthen the relationships. For a few, the changes may have contributed to a shaky relationship ending.
David N., a Warrior of over three years, gained self-confidence and the clarity of what in life was important to him; that in turn enabled him to attract his new wife. Barbara is clear that part of her attraction to David was his involvement with a men’s group that examined new ways of being a man.
Change is often messy. Couples in relationship agree that even positive growth brings its challenges. Peeling off ‘nice’ patterns of relating can rock the boat. As much as women may want their men to come more from the heart or to show up more as men, it can be hard not to guide the process. “While there have been times the support he gets from the men feels adversarial, they have also provided us an opportunity to push further and reach even better understandings,” says Di, who also wishes she had a group of her own that was so committed to change. Although not officially affiliated, Woman Within shares a similar mission to the Mankind Project. (womanwithin.org) Couples may find they need to learn new paradigms of relating and to trust where continued growth will take them. Integrity and accountability enhance a relationship and allow each partner to live more fully in the truth of who they are.
Some New Warriors have become separated and divorced. We asked two men and one soon to be ex-wife what, if any, connections there were between the changes made through MKP and the ending of the relationship. No one attributed the ending to MKP; in fact all spoke positively of how MKP provided support and skills to cope with the loss.
Without question, New Warriors become better fathers by being more willing and able to open the door to their children and listen without jumping to judgment or action. Mark, a New Warrior of one and one half years, asked his 15-year-old daughter what changes she had seen in him since MKP. She replied that there was more space now between incident and action. Her father was taking more time to think and reflect before jumping in to be the leader. Jim echoed themes from other men who were abused as children and now are parents when he says that he brings his wounds to MKP to re-parent himself versus acting out the abuse with his children.
Challenges for Women
On the whole, women feel very positive about MKP. Initially for some women, there had been fear that MKP would be disempowering for them as women or take too much time away from the family. There were a few rocky starts but these issues seemed to dissipate over time. Indeed, it appears that women appreciate men greatly as they change and become more open, more authentic and more accountable. “Women tend to come from more of an emotional heart space and as men change towards that direction, we have more in common to share.” One woman confided: “as I trust his maleness and how he expresses it, it enables me to be more feminine.”
We end with an interesting paradox. Is it possible that as New Warriors help to heal the world one man at a time, women too will be challenged? Imagine new paradigms where with integrity and accountability, men and women together can let go of righteous reactive emotions, old wounds and assumptions? Embrace and explore new ways of being a man and what that means? What it means to be a woman? And with abandon, shall femininity and masculinity finally learn to dance the divine?
Barbara Marlowe recently announced the opening of InbodyMe: Explorations on the Healing’s Edge. [ 828-298-6579 firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Jeffrey Goldwasser is a Chiropractor in Sylva. The Asheville Mankind Project is hosting open Men’s Groups in October. The next New Warriors Training is scheduled in December. For more information contact Jeffrey at 828-627-8494.